PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have 30 games left, exactly a month standing between them and either the postseason or a long winter. To get back to the playoffs for the fourth straight season, they can't afford many more nights like Friday's 1-0 loss to the Brewers at PNC Park.Coming on
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have 30 games left, exactly a month standing between them and either the postseason or a long winter. To get back to the playoffs for the fourth straight season, they can't afford many more nights like Friday's 1-0 loss to the Brewers at PNC Park.
Coming on the heels of a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field, the defeat stretched Pittsburgh's losing streak to four games. One silver lining for the Bucs: Everyone else in the National League Wild Card race -- the Giants, Cardinals, Mets and Marlins -- also lost on Friday, so they remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second spot.
Pittsburgh's fourth straight loss was due largely to the work of Milwaukee's bullpen, which picked up 5 2/3 innings after right-hander Junior Guerra's scoreless, 3 1/3-inning return from the disabled list. Brewers Jacob Barnes, Blaine Boyer, Jhan Mariñez, Carlos Torres, Corey Knebel and Tyler Thornburg kept the Pirates off the board the rest of the way. In fact, the Pirates did not get a runner to third base.
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"We had a nine-inning shutout using seven pitchers," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's probably only in September baseball, but they did great and they all pitched tough innings."
Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon took the loss, but deserved a better fate, as he continued his impressive rookie campaign with six efficient innings. Taillon allowed one run on three hits while striking out four, needing only 76 pitches to log his 11th quality start in his 14th Major League start. But it wasn't enough to keep the Pirates from skidding to their seventh losing streak of at least four games this season, this one a disappointing start to what they hope to be another memorable September stretch run.
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"I'm aware of the standings, where we're at and what's at stake," Taillon said. "If I'm a guy they'd like to turn the ball over to, that's great."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
On the board: The Brewers nicked Taillon for their only run in the sixth inning. Martín Maldonado was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He scored on the double by Gennett.
"It felt good," Gennett said. "Typically, it's not a pitch I want to swing at, but fortunately enough, I was able to get some good wood on it and it's nice getting a run across for our pitchers. They did such a good job tonight and it's important to at least put one up."
Picking up the pitcher: The Pirates had a shot to even things up in the eighth inning, when Josh Harrison reached on a leadoff single to right field. Knebel tried to pick off the speedy Harrison at first, but his throw sailed past first baseman Hernán Pérez and into foul territory. Perez scrambled after the ball and threw a perfect strike to third baseman Jonathan Villar, who easily tagged out Harrison after he was waved through by third-base coach Rick Sofield.
"We both were being aggressive. Come to find out, the ball gave him a good hop," Harrison said. "You can't really predict how the ball's going to kick off the fence in the thick of things. It looked like I was going to be safe. Next thing, I wasn't."
It was Pittsburgh's third out of the night on the bases and perhaps the mostly costly of the trio.
"You don't want to make the out at third," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "However, how many times has he made a play, let it fly and we're all going, 'Wow, that was good'?"
Guerra on short leash: Guerra, activated from the disabled list before the game, battled through 3 1/3 innings. Brewers manager Craig Counsell indicated before the game that they were going to be cautious with Guerra and that he was on a pitch count. Guerra left the game with runners on first and second. Barnes, also fresh off the disabled list, pitched out of the jam without allowing a run. Guerra threw 70 pitches -- 37 were strikes.
Pinch-rundown:Matt Joyce entered the game as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the seventh and drew a walk against Torres, ending a streak of 11 straight Pirates hitters retired in order. Rookie Alen Hanson, recently called up for his speed and defense, replaced Joyce as a pinch-runner with Harrison at the plate. Torres' third pickoff throw was a success, as Hanson was caught stealing second for the final out of the inning.
"He felt he saw something early enough to go, and obviously that wasn't there," Hurdle said. "Tried to make an aggressive play."
"Let's be honest, tonight was a game it was tough to score runs on both sides. Sometimes that's just how baseball is." -- Harrison, on the Pirates' offensive struggles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This was the Brewers' fifth shutout of the season and their first since beating the Nationals, 1-0, on July 4. Of those five shutouts, three have come in 1-0 victories.
The Pirates were the last Major League team to be shut out this season, suffering their first blanking on June 17. Including that game, they have since been shut out six times.
Brewers: Right-hander Jimmy Nelson (7-13, 4.45 ERA) gets the start for the Brewers against the Pirates on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Nelson has gone 2-10 with a 5.87 ERA over his last 16 starts.
Pirates: Right-hander Ivan Nova, 4-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his first five starts for the Pirates, will take the mound against the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Nova held Milwaukee to one run over six innings in Pittsburgh's 3-1 win at Miller Park on Sunday. Nova left that outing due to hamstring discomfort, but he threw his regularly scheduled between-starts bullpen session and has been cleared to pitch.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh and covered the Brewers on Friday.